Cornell University highlighted its optimism for the coming semester in a recent report by the Cornell Chronicle. In the article, the university shared that of the more than 4,000 tests it has conducted so far, only five tests have come back positive.
The university has been working to ease local concerns that the Cornell's Fall reopening might bring with it a surge of new cases. In the report, the university referenced epidemiological models created by university experts that assert that resuming in-person lectures and on-campus living is more likely to have a positive influence on the number of cases in the city in the coming months; lowering potential cases.
"Many students would have returned to off-campus housing in Ithaca anyway," stated the report. "The university could not have enforced a comprehensive testing program and behavioral requirements to help protect the community’s public health."
The university is expecting some 20,000 students to return to Ithaca over the next month. Of the positive cases already located by the institution, two were faculty or staff members and three were students.
Before opening, all returning undergraduate, graduate and professional students, whether living on or off campus will be tested upon arrival to campus. Testing is currently being conducted in partnership with Cayuga Health System and the Tompkins County Health Department, which is responsible for case investigations and contact tracing. Currently, Cayuga Medical Center is conducting free arrival testing for students at the Fischell Band Center adjacent to Schoellkopf Field, although the college is also directing faculty, staff and some students to the testing site at Ithaca Mall, as well.
Gary Koretzky, vice provost for academic integration and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, noted that the university had just achieved “a critical development for convenient, high-volume testing,” that is less invasive, and is expected to be implemented during the surveillance period, after the semester begins, when students living on campus will be tested approx. two times per week, collecting their samples themselves.
The report also mentioned the Daily Check, as part of surveillance testing, and a Behavioral Compact, which students will be expected to complete before arriving to campus. The university said it has launched a public health campaign in order to reinforce behavioral guidelines outlined in the compact, as well.
“It was important to understand what our current prevalence was before a lot of students came back, and we’re gratified that it’s so low,” Koretzky said. “It’s clear that most people are being careful, and we want to encourage that to continue. Closely following public health guidelines will be critical to success during the fall semester.”
In an address on Aug. 5, Cornell University President Martha Pollack encouraged students from states named in New York's advisory list should remain at their permanent residence until their state is removed from the list. However, students who follow state guidelines requiring them to register with the state and quarantine for up to 14 days will be permitted to return to school in the Fall.
"I want to be clear to the community, as we have been with our students, that the behavioral compact is binding and will be enforced. The consequences for knowingly submitting inaccurate information to Cornell, or for violations of Cornell’s public health rules, will be significant: ranging from loss of access to campus facilities to suspension from the university without refund of tuition," said Pollack. "It is equally critical for our entire non-student community to model safe behavior in all aspects of on-campus and off-campus life."